|What is the current state of play within New Zealand parliamentary parties over marriage equality as the deadline approaches for submissions to the Marriage Equality Bill? Craig Young has the answers.
Currently, in the case of the National Party, there is an almost fifty-fifty split on the issue. Prime Minister Key has evidently 'triangulated' on this, decided that a positive stance is highly popular within metropolitan electorates, and concluded that a prudent display of bipartisan social liberalism might provide a polling parachute to the National Party, given questions about the pace of the asset sales process, related Treaty of Waitangi Maori water ownership litigation, Kim Dotcom and John Banks Auckland mayoral campaign donations and other potential liabilities. One also wonders if the "Key/Cameron" axis has proven to work to our advantage. The question is, how many National MPs are primarily Key loyalists before anything else, and will vote on that basis, how many can be convinced that marriage equality is a neccessary, just and incremental social reform and what lobbying from centre-right social liberals like David Farrar (Kiwiblog) and Cameron Slater (Whaleoil). One must especially admire Cameron Slater's perserverance and commitment to our cause, particularly given the tragic death of his mother from cancer recently. I am sure that our community wishes this sterling ally of ours well over this heartbreaking development within his personal life.
And is Family First considered a reliable and supportive organisation within the National Party hierarchy? Rumour has it that this is not the case, given that last year's "Value Your Vote" guide may have contributed to the political resurrection of Winston Peters and New Zealand First, given that it emphasised the latter's social conservatism- no matter that National might not want the return of the populist anti-immigrant party to Parliament. Is Key's support for marriage equality intended partially to teach Family First a lesson about duplicity and political realism? If so, I fear that it may be a forelorn hope. In any case, I concede that this is supposition- no-one has examined the reason for the revival of New Zealand First, and whether it is permanent or not.
Onto the Labour Party. Despite Su'a William Sio's display of horizontal hostility against Louisa Wall's advocacy of marriage equality, only two other Labour MPs have joined conservative Mormon Mangere Labour MP Sio and opposed the bill- Ross Robertson, a rural Labour MP and evangelical Christian, and Damian O'Connor, a rural Labour MP and provincial social conservative over LGBT concerns. Raymond Huo did not vote on the first reading of the Marriage Equality Bill and has abstained. Despite Sio's pessimism, Labour support for marriage equality has not negatively impacted on party support levels. Instead, most opinion polls show near parity between Labour and the Greens on the one hand, and National on the other, and a slow but steady rise in Labour Party support. If an election were held now, the result might be a hung parliament or narrow majority for either the centre-left or centre-right. One does hope that Labour leader David Shearer emphasises that unlike the Prime Minister, he has never vacillated about his support for marriage equality.
Like Labour, the Greens have been magnificent allies over this and other LGBT concerns and has worked together well with Labour over this and other political concerns of note. Kevin Hague has worked hard and has contributed as much to the marriage equality and adoption reform debates as Louisa Wall, Charles Chauvel, Jacinda Arden and other supportive Labour MPs have done. One looks forward to what they might further accomplish in a future centre-left governing coalition- especially given that a transgender rights anti-discrimination bill needs to be the next New Zealand LGBT legislative priority after the passage of marriage equality, whenever that occurs. I'd be especially interested to see what could be done over constitutional reforms.
What about the minor parties? One suspects that the Maori and Mana parties both recognise and recall the instance of precolonial Hawai'i's aikane same-sex relationships and attendant ceremonies, as well as recognising and acknowledging the stake that conscientious takatapui and whakawahine want to play within their whanau through whangai adoption processes. Added to that, it probably helps that a Maori Labour MP, Louisa Wall, is steering this legislation through Parliament and that there is virtually no significant Maori leadership opposition to marriage equality- other than Radio Live talkback demagogues Willie Jackson and John Tamihere, whose 'leadership' and representative claims are questionable in this context.
As for United Future and ACT, the two microparties have different reasons for their support for marriage equality. In both cases, undoubted loyalty to their coalition partner is one such factor. In the case of United Future, Peter Dunne may be genuinely trying to compensate for the social conservative interlude when the fundamentalist Future New Zealand/Kiwi Party elements of his erstwhile caucus provided infrastructure in exchange for his pinion electorate seat. It might also improve his prospects of retaining Ohariu-Belmont from Charles Chauvel's continuing challenge in 2014.
ACT is in a far more serious condition. One suspects that John Banks has been told to toe the line over marriage equality to keep the peace within ACT's party organisation, and blunt criticism of Banks over persistent questions about the ethics of Kim Dotcom's substantial contributions to a prior Auckland mayoral campaign. One suspects therefore that this would continue even if Banks admitted defeat and stood down as consequence of continuing questions about his political judgement. It also probably helps that Epsom is a predominantly urban liberal electorate.
Last and most definitely least, we come to New Zealand First. As with the other parliamentary parties cited within this article, New Zealand First is playing primarily to its own core constituency on this issue, anti-market elderly social conservatives who used to vote for the late Rob Muldoon when he was National PM during the seventies and eighties. Over time, that constituency is bound to shrink, as mortality and illness catch up with its scale of support, gradually eroding it. One could also ask whether New Zealand First's electoral resurgence is a consequence of Labour's weakness during the Goff interlude and whether it will therefore fail to cross the five per cent threshold at the next New Zealand General Election in 2014. Perhaps its opposition to marriage equality is also intended to lure younger religious social conservatives into voting for them.
However, its continued political existence may have a side-effect- its parliamentary presence provides Key with a convenient litmus test to blunt weak supporters of marriage equality from defection. If they want to preserve the asset of his party leadership, then they will toe the line and continue to support marriage equality rather than risk weakening it. However, New Zealand First is the only parliamentary party to unequivocally oppose marriage equality. It needs to be marginalised over this issue and its referendum calls need to be challenged, and it needs to be strongly challenged at the next general election.
Over all, then, a good prognosis. However, we will need to have a look at the select committee submissions and adjust our tactics and strategy accordingly, and in the interim period, keep those positive submissions flowing into their post office boxes.
Recommended: National: http://www.national.org.nz Labour: http://www.labour.org.nz Greens: http://www.greens.org.nz Maori Party: http://www.maoriparty.org Mana Party: http://www.mana.net.nz United Future: http://www.unitedfuture.org.nz ACT: http://www.act.org.nz
Not Recommended: New Zealand First: http://www.nzfirst.org.nz
Allies: Kiwiblog: http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz Whaleoil: http://www.whaleoil.co.nz Politics and religion commentator Craig Young - 17th October 2012